The earth is filled with creatures both large and small. Each of them is unique and provides a significant purpose in the overall ecology of the planet. Predators eat their prey to stop them from overpopulating the Earth. This normal process of the food chain is what kept the natural environment stable for millions of years. By the time humans have gained dominance over the planet, this balance was tipped and now more and more animals are endangered or becoming extinct. Here are the top 5 endangered species that are still being hunted.
1. Great White Shark
The great white shark can be found in the coastal waters of all the major oceans of the world. They are ferocious creatures that can ravage their prey and swallow them whole. But today, the great white shark population is slowly dwindling and you can blame the movies because of that. Movies tend to misrepresent the behavior of the great white shark. In fact, due to the movies that depict great white sharks are creatures that feed mainly on humans, this species of shark have been hunted until they have been rendered vulnerable. Sightings of the great white sharks have become incredibly rare unlike before when scientists can easily spot a great white shark to study them in their natural environment.
Many nations have declared it illegal to kill and hunt great white sharks in fear that the natural structure of the ecology and the food chain will be destroyed. Most of the number of deaths are from hunting while others tend to be acts of self-defense. But, not all countries have the same idealogy to protect these animals from extinction.
In fact, Australia is just one of the many countries that have legalized the hunting of great white sharks citing that more than 5 people are fatally attacked every year. Most of the time, these attacks happen when a person falls off the boat. Hunting great white sharks in Australia does not require any license making things even grimmer for the vulnerable great white sharks.
2. Leatherback Sea Turtles
Leatherback Sea Turtles are the largest turtles in the world. They are the fourth largest modern reptile behind three crocodiles. It is the only living turtle that does not have a bony shell instead they have a carapace made of thick skin and oily flesh. Most leatherback turtles feed on jellyfish and they can be found in the open ocean. They are found mostly on the shores of Indonesia even up to the shores of the US coasts. They favor breeding in mainland beaches that face deep waters and are found to avoid beaches that are filled with corals. The normal lifespan of a leatherback turtle is more than 30 years but there are records that the turtle can reach up to more than 80 years.
Leatherback turtles tend to lay their eggs on open beaches and humans harvest them. This makes them very vulnerable to humans who often take their eggs and heavily affect their current population. Most of the time, humans also kill the turtle after laying the eggs and feast on their flesh. Certain cultures treat the eggs as delicacies and aphrodisiacs. Global initiatives have made efforts to protect the leatherback turtles from extinction.
Certain sanctuaries that these turtles frequent during the egg-laying season are established to provide a safe haven for these turtles to lay their eggs without the threat of humans harvesting their eggs. They also provide protection for newly hatched turtles from their natural predators to improve the population of the turtle.
3. Polar Bear
The polar bear is the largest living terrestrial predator. It is also the most aggressive and the most dangerous bear in the world. It is known to attack and consume humans only when they are hungry. They are fiercely territorial and if a human crosses their territory, expect to be attacked in an instant. Male polar bears can reach up to 1,500 pounds and stand at 5 feet tall. A polar bear’s paw can reach up to 12 inches and can swipe a human’s face off. With this, people have become wary of polar bears and are often the basis for hunting them down. Polar bears are the only predators that actively watch for humans. If they spot humans, they can charge a human down in seconds within a 100 yards space. With this, more and more people find polar bears to be very dangerous. This makes them very vulnerable. Polar bears exclusively live on the Arctic Circle. There are only 25,000 to 50,000 polar bears left in the world.
With that, countries surrounding the Arctic Circle have made an effort in protecting the animal from extinction. USA, Russia, Norway, Denmark, and Canada have made initiatives to protect the polar bears from extinction.
It is illegal to hunt polar bears in Norway and it is the only topic that the US and Russia agreed upon during the height of the Cold War. Sadly, there is still illegal hunting occurring. Polar bears are dangerous to humans only when they are threatened and now that their entire population is threatened, humans should make a pact to protect them from harm.
4. Black Rhinoceros
European hunters are responsible for the fast-dwindling population of the black rhinoceros. The black rhinoceros heavily populated Africa during the early 19th and 20th century but hunters and poachers slowly deteriorated their population to a point that only 2,400 were alive by 1995. Black rhinos have two horns and sometimes a third posterior horn can grow. This makes them very lucrative targets for illegal hunters and poachers as the horns are quite expensive. Between the years 1970 to 1992, almost 98 percent of the entire population of the Black Rhino were killed. Certain conservation efforts were made then but war and political instability in the African countries have hampered such conservation efforts. Today, black rhino horns remain in demand in the black market making the black rhinoceros one of the most critically endangered animals on Earth.
The increasing awareness of the dwindling black rhino population has alerted several other organizations to protect the animal. As of 2010, the population has risen from 2,410 to 4,880. Most of them are under protection in Etosha National Park in Namibia.
5. Amur Leopard
The Amur leopard or also known as the far eastern leopard, Korean leopard, or Manchurian leopard is a critically endangered animal. There are only 19 amur leopards left in the world. Amur leopards are just one of the new subspecies of leopards that have adapted to colder temperatures.
They are known to store their food from other predators and are then eaten when they are hungry. The Amur leopard has an ecologic, economic, and cultural significance to the countries that house them.
The Amur leopard is being hunted for its skin and is sold for only $500. The WWF is working together with local communities to stop illegal hunters from acquiring their fur.